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The courage not to be nice

Culture

If you have children or, well, ears, these last few weeks you’ve been pummeled with various renditions of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” with its not-so-veiled threat that if you are “naughty” instead of “nice,” Santa won’t drop down your chimney. My mom recently bought me a pillow on which Santa’s naughty and nice lists are embroidered and I (this explains Mom’s giggling) … am on the naughty side.

I guess I should be worried, but is being “nice” truly the opposite of naughty, one being as inherently good as the other is bad?

Bruce Frohnen from The Imaginative Conservative doesn’t think so. In his article, “The Cult of Niceness,” he writes, “‘Niceness’ is a rather shallow set of habits and attitudes more concerned with comfort than engagement, ease than excellence, contentment than striving to do one’s best.” 

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So much for Santa’s penultimate virtue.

According to Frohnen, this is how “niceness” differs from its nobler cousin, “civility,” you know, being polite and stuff. 

Being nice has nothing to do with true, loving godly character and everything to do with conflict avoidance, lack of courage to stand up for the truth, and the trait most adored by the politically correct—tolerance. It has people-pleasing in it more than anything else.

Relevant’s Eric Hoke, a self-professed “people-pleaser,” in an article called “Jesus Didn’t Call Us to Be Nice,” admits:

“It turns out that none of the Fruit of the Spirit have anything to do with being a total pushover, but I am one. I have a hard time saying no. I have a hard time being honest. I have a hard time showing emotions besides happiness. I just ended up becoming a ‘nice’ Christian guy and wondered where I went wrong.”

He goes on to say that even Jesus, while godly, wasn’t necessarily “nice”: “Jesus said no. Jesus is honest. Jesus shows emotions besides happiness.”

If Jesus wasn’t nice, it makes you wonder why we try to make it the 11th Commandment. Nowhere on the list of the fruit of the Spirit have I ever seen “niceness.”

Frohnen speaks of where we end up when idolizing the hollow “virtue”:

“The result [of the emphasis on niceness] is a culture in which religious faith is viewed in the same manner as any other ‘hobby,’ whether it is stamp collecting or group sex. In the same way, ‘niceness,’ as opposed to the discipline of civility, can mean simply not caring whether anyone is right or wrong, reasonable, unreasonable, or simply lazy, so long as no one bothers to challenge anyone else.”

It takes courage not to be nice and no courage at all to be nice. 

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.

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